See things the way God sees them.
Photo by Kaylee Stepkoski on Unsplash.
This article was inspired by our single "Higher". You can listen to the song below.
It's the difference between seeing a deer...as either dinner, or a beast to be feared and respected.
Perspective is the way you view the world. It’s the difference between seeing a deer in the woods and thinking of it as either dinner, or a beast to be feared and respected. Last year, I saw God consistently shift my perspective on everything. He left no stone unturned, though I do wish there were some things He would have left alone, such as my insecurities about my skin and trying to find my voice as a singer. Don’t even get me started on learning the piano. Add a global pandemic, multiple deaths in the family, and stepping down from leadership at my church to be a full time independent musician, and you have all the ingredients necessary for a mental break with no return to sanity in sight.
But somehow, I didn’t break.
My mind bent into positions that I didn’t think were possible. I know without a shadow of a doubt that it was God’s grace and mercy that carried me through. He kept me from living in fear and inspired me to lift others out of their personal pits of despair. I believe that I’ve been made better this year because of His constant call to see things from His vantage point. To see higher. As I look to the future I realize that I have a choice.
I can keep the mindset God has shaped in me during this 2020.
I can be open to new upgrades for the rest of my life.
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash.
The end of the year always leads to a time of introspection for me, and right after Christmas, I usually get very anxious about what the New Year will look like and how I can grow. This time around, my introspective sessions have been a little more hopeful than ones past, but are largely plagued by fear surrounding the future. Especially as a new, independent artist. In the midst of this fear is a heightened anxiety. We wonder if we will be able to do any public gigs safely. Or ever again (we may be stuck inside performing virtually for God knows how long).
We wonder if we can figure out how to get social media algorithms and technology to work for us so we can boost our income, or if these challenges will crush our desire to create. The temptation to just survive (aka “get a REAL job” as some may say) is very real, especially since our brains are wired to pursue it, at all costs.
He wants us to thrive in the most challenging circumstances.
But abandoning the joy that comes from living a whole, purpose filled life is too high a price to pay, even in the midst of the struggles. Survival is not what Jesus died for us to do. He came so that we could live an abundant life (John 10:10). Not a pointless existence where we just ‘get by’ on the bare minimum, in fear of our joy being stolen and our hope being destroyed. He wants us to create without fear of the future. He wants us thrive in the most challenging circumstances. He wants us go higher!
The question is...do you?
What has you tethered to the ground? What’s shackling your faith? What’s barring you from honing your craft and being God’s version of yourself?
Photo by Stephan Seeber on Unsplash.
There is a summit of creativity where God is the wellspring, the air is crisp, and you are free to be who He made you to be. I’m ready to go higher.
How about you?
Grab the, "He Is My Strength, He Is My Song" sweatshirt here.
"Comfort" has pampered many Christians. 2020 has made that exceedingly obvious.
By J. Sells
Now what could I mean by that first line? Well, by it, I mean that you need to stop being a slouch in your faith. Get off the “recliner”, so to speak. I write this because I’ve seen 2020 absolutely wreck the faiths of many who I thought, were steadfast men and women of God. At least, that’s what I was led to believe based on what I saw externally.
Your Christianity must be more than your hobbies.
Government shut downs and closures continuing into 2021 is inevitable. As hopeful as we are for the New Year, I do unfortunately believe that we’re in for more loss. More sadness. Perhaps, more chaos, but of a different breed. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a total doom and gloom outlook for the upcoming year, but what I do know for certain is that it will require a different kind of faith from us. A different kind of hope. One you can’t get from your hobbies. Your Christianity must be more than your hobbies. We’ve been so used to hanging out during and after church, playing music on stage, and leading whole congregations into the presence of God through the preached word. But with that seemingly stripped from us, there are many who have felt and maybe are still feeling “naked” in their faith.
Photo by M.T. Elgassier on Unsplash.
There are those of us who have woven a blanket of “community” and swaddled ourselves with it, saying to ourselves, “This is faith. This is Christianity.” And it makes you feel warm and cozy, and reaffirms everything about ‘God’s love’ that you’ve been telling yourself. Isn’t it great when all of that works together? Sure it is.
But what if…that blanket were snatched clean off you?
Perhaps, as you felt both the blanket and your warmth escape from your body, you reached out and clung to this blanket, fervently jerking it back in an attempt to take back your comfort. In an attempt to take back your 'safety'. But…it was taken from you anyway.
It was seized from you.
And you sit there, naked. Cold. Despondent. Angry at yourself. Worse yet…
Angry at God.
We’ve borne cloths of comfort. Not the armor of God.
I’ve seen so many come to question God’s existence this year. Too many to count. And I believe, it’s mainly because a lot of the pleasures and comforts we once enjoyed, we can no longer enjoy. We have made these ‘comforts’ our faith foundations, our faith homes, dangling Christianity on its sides as an accessory. There are many who have pointed to God, saying, “How dare you take this from me.”
“Give it back. Now!”
Thing is, God didn’t “strip” us of these comforts. I think it’s fine if one sees them as a bi-product of us loving Him and trusting Him, and Him being a good father to His children, but they were never meant to be a receipt that we point to as ‘proof’ that God loves us. They were most certainly not meant to be the foundations of our faith. We’ve borne cloths of comfort. Not the armor of God.
And that’s what has led the faith of many to ruin.
Photo by Samuele Giglio on Unsplash.
The enemy is ferocious. Cunning. Malicious. Deadly. You shouldn’t dare dream of doing battle with him in nothing but a nightgown. Yet, we often do. And I believe 2020 has exposed that unfortunate truth! We’ve been battered senseless by his blows this year. And no one saw it coming.
Because no one was prepared.
“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
This is an age old quote from a hymn written by Edward Mote in 1834. Truer words have never been spoken. All other “ground” (aka foundations) literally crumbles quicker than you can grab for it. As you fall, the jagged rocks of the “mountain” you made an idol of will crack your skull open on the way down. And you figured a blanket would protect you? Tsk tsk tsk…this shouldn’t be so.
There must be firmer protection. There must be more solid ground!
Ephesians 6:13–18 describes the armor of God, how we should wear it, and the purpose each piece serves. This way, when (yes when) the enemy comes, we know exactly how to proceed. When he approaches to do battle, we will emerge victorious. Notice, I didn’t say unscathed. But victorious.
Christian. Guard your faith. Your real one. Your trust and hope in Jesus. That can never be taken from you. No matter what.
Grace and peace.
These ideologies are more compatible than you'd imagine.
By J. Sells
At first glance, these two statements seem like they’re at odds with one another, like you’re being told to love yourself AND hate yourself simultaneously. What’s even more important here is that Jesus uttered these statements Himself! Some may use this to attempt to point out how confusing Jesus is. On the contrary, the point that Jesus is getting at is quite clear, but WE are the ones making it murky. And this is thanks to the fact that a lot of us get our theology from social media these days. Things like, “live your truth”, “self-love”, and so on. These lines of thinking are actually quite dangerous and fly in the face of the things that Jesus taught. Why does this happen? And why do we conflate these “isms” with Jesus’ words??
Be mindful of the guests.
It’s often said and thought that love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 19:19) is a command to love yourself…but it’s not.
It’s a command to love your neighbor. I think we think it commands us to love ourselves because ‘love yourself’ comes after ‘love your neighbor’, a sequence that makes it seem like the latter item is what’s primary, like if someone said, “Be mindful of the guests as you clean the house”. Since cleaning is the task you’d be consumed with, you’d find a way to clean around the guests instead of tending to their needs because you THINK, or ASSUME rather, that’s what’s been asked of you. But, what was the FIRST thing you were told to do?
“Be mindful of the guests.”
What was the FIRST thing that Jesus told US to do?
“Love your neighbor.”
Photo by Ben White.
Oddly enough, ‘love yourself’ actually has nothing to do with how much you do or don’t ‘love yourself’ (in terms of self-esteem and whatnot). The ‘love yourself’ piece of that verse merely speaks to how we (at least those of us in our right minds) care for ourselves in terms of food, clothing, and shelter, often going to great lengths to secure these things…and a little added comfort. Okay, a LOT of added comfort. So what?
WE are to go out of OUR way to care for OTHERS in this SAME fashion. Going to great lengths to secure comfort for them, to make sure that they’re doing and feeling okay. So much so, that it seems as if we’re…
Denying ourselves. Woah.
And that’s just one aspect of ‘denying yourself’.
Here’s another. Jesus states in Matthew 16:24 that if anyone is to follow Him, he must ‘deny himself’. What does that mean? Deprive ourselves of food and drink? Certainly not, because He just pointed how the same love we give to ourselves is what we should bestow upon our neighbor. So what DOES He mean?
As westerners, most of us being outsiders and foreigners to eastern culture and life, we live very differently than they do. Beyond that, we think very differently than they do. Generally speaking, we’re an individualistic society, and the lands where the Bible was formed are very collectivist, meaning that we lean on ourselves in thought and deed, while they lean on each other in thought and deed. Proverbs 14:12 says, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Sounds dramatic, right? But it’s true. So what does all this have to do with denying yourself?
We know what HE knows.
Donning the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), we have His understanding. We lean on that. That’s where we put roots down. That’s where we glean our truth from. He is our firm foundation. We, in and of ourselves, have no truth (yes, I’m talking to you, ‘affirmationists’, you know who you are); there’s nothing worthy or lovable. ALL of that is derived from Jesus and what HE has deemed true about us! Knowing this, we have a new framework within which to operate. We now know how to truly treat others. We also know how to treat ourselves.
We treat others the way that Christ treats us, and we only know how Christ treats us because we have His mind. In essence, WE know what HE knows. And this is only achieved by denying what we ‘know’…by denying ourselves.
Love yourself. Deny yourself.
Grace and peace.
And Jesus ISN'T the cure.
By J. Sells
Photo by John Cameron.
This article was inspired by our single "Jungle", which features God Over Money signee Jered Sanders. You can listen to the song below.
You may mean well, but...
I'm sure we've all heard the phrase, "Jesus is the cure for racism!" Or at least some version of the phrase. While I'm sure that those who use the statement and the statement itself mean well, it's ultimately false. It grossly oversimplifies the changes necessary to tackle racism by reducing it to a 'heart' issue, or an ideological problem. This is problematic because it assumes that all will be made well if we merely THINK differently, as opposed to actually DOING different things and BEING different human beings. It would be great if racism ONLY affected the gray matter (or lack thereof) sloshing around inside the human skull. If only. Contrary to popular belief, the opposite is true.
Racism isn't just thinking of oneself as superior to another race. That's prejudice. Racism is MAKING oneself superior to another race.
Now, one could argue that new actions will flow from a new train of thought, and I would mostly agree. However, with specific regard to racism in America, we're talking CENTURIES of embedded policies that have wreaked havoc upon minorities; havoc that isn't undone by simply saying, "sorry" or "Jesus is my homie now!" (insert eyeroll). Racism isn't just thinking of oneself as superior to another race. That's prejudice. Racism is MAKING oneself superior to another race.
Photo provided by Flickr.
Un-rig the board
I'll use a chess board for a quick analogy. A change of heart taking place in the 'creators' of chess would be cute, but that means nothing if the GAME itself is still rigged. When the phrase "Jesus is the cure for racism" is used, the thought that typically accompanies it is "just preach the Gospel", as if the Gospel is merely fire insurance. As if the Gospel doesn't inform how we LIVE. As if the Bible ONLY talks about how to avoid Heaven and Hell, and is silent on what goes on in between. As if people will somehow become afraid enough of Hell to live differently. Nah. That…is a flaccid Gospel!
To say that social justice has no place in the Gospel is tantamount to saying God isn't interested in fairness, or righting wrongs, when that's EXACTLY what He has done and will do!
Isaiah 1:17 and Micah 6:8 both speak to how justice should be sought and how oppression should be corrected. Oppression may not be as overt today as slavery was back then, but it's still very real, and in many ways, covert. Ironically, many of the arguments made against the abolition of slavery are the same ones being made today against social justice! Here's the thing. Police reform needs to happen (murderers caught on camera shouldn't be able to bail themselves out, or essentially throw 'hush money' at the family of the victims, as in the case of Breonna Taylor or Freddie Gray for example). Policies surrounding criminal sentencing need to be grossly adjusted (it shouldn't take months to arrest, indict, charge, and sentence when the evidence is overwhelming). To the say that social justice has no place in the Gospel is tantamount to saying God isn't interested in fairness, or righting wrongs, when that's EXACTLY what He has done and will do!
Photo provided by Flickr.
The REAL cure
The phrase "Jesus is the cure for racism" will actually be relevant when racism has been reduced to prejudice. THEN we can address the people who like to justify death by asking questions like,
"What was their criminal history like?"
"Were they on drugs?"
"Why didn't they just comply?"
Until then, don't waste time arguing with them. BE the change. Speak up. Speak out. Vote. Correct laws. THAT is how we cure racism!
You can also tangibly fight racism by making a statement with our "Racism is a Virus" tee, available here!